November 10, 2017

Glimpses of life in Iran in 1910 – by Dr. Susan Moody

[Excerpts from two letters by Dr. Susan Moody describing conditions of women, medical work, bravery of Baha’is, school for girls, and plans for Mashriqu’l-Adhkar]

Tehran, Persia, 
Jan. 11, 1910

Dearest Eva: Please redeem a promise I have made to the sisters here that their photo should be copied and spread in America. I think I mentioned that this is an important event in their lives; they have thrown down one rule, for once, that is, to show their faces to the world. I cannot describe to you how they are deprived.

Again today I was in a home the wife's mother was closely veiled because the husband's young brother was in the room; and later all the women left the room because two men friends of the family were coming. I could stay and enjoy hearing the newcomers tell of a recent trip to Russia, etc. On leaving I went to say good bye to the women -- their rooms are in an entirely separate court, as if in another house. A man servant passed just as I raised the heavy curtain to leave, and all the women screamed and pulled down their veils, or drew the "chadur” up over their mouth and nose. The husband we met in Paris and since being on the continent he is anxious to help free the women from their dreary life.

The hospital business is now arranged and after this week I am to be there with the other doctors in the afternoons. I met another, a non-Bahai doctor, this morning, and he asked me to assist him in an operation later. I liked him and hope to establish pleasant relations with them all. 

A son of one of the four "Hands of the Cause" (Jenabi Adub) whose name is Mirza Ali, starts for Marseilles in two days. He goes to learn the business of curing leather. At present all hides are exported for curing and returned at enormous cost. The progressive steps mean much here, and it is the Baha’i who has the courage to go forth with assurance of success.

Love to all,

Susan I. Moody

Extract from a letter, dated February 13, 1910

Teheran, Persia,

Today we were invited for lunch to the home of Mirza Ghavam Altojar. We had been told that it was a matter of importance. First, I want to say that the home was a Baha’i home very near the city wall, in a good part of town. The streets in some places were shaded by cypress trees and the garden of this house has many tall sycamores. The interior was rich in beautiful rugs and the dinner was served in European style table -- and chairs.

Our host purposed that land for a Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in Teheran be secured at once. Have you ever seen a match touched to a bundle of dry straw? Well, it took these noble men about that long to grasp the situation, get over their first surprise, appoint a committee of nine and set a date to see the piece of land proposed by our host. It makes one hold his breath to see the faith of these grand old teachers and their fearlessness in going forward. The constitution is really making them able to act like free men. They are, at the same time, careful not to arouse public prejudice which is strong still.

Yet one more piece of news: The girls' school is assured. They will start with accommodations for fifty pupils, and they think as the girls are not yet educated in Persian that they should not ask to have an English teacher sent just yet, but wait a few months and see how many will then want to take up English. There are a few who have been in the American school and can talk very well.

Please tell any who want to help that it will take only $1.50 per month to educate a girl. There are many here too poor to pay and this is the way to help lift Persia from her otherwise hopeless condition. Do make a strong point of this to all the friends and help the brave Baha’is here.

Think of it since we arrived they have started a hospital, a girl's school and a Mashriqu'l-Adhkar! Come over and help us. COME!

Mr. Sprague has just been appointed superintendent of the boys' school, the former having resigned.
(Star of the West, vol. 1, no. 2, April 9, 1910)